Free clinic helps the homeless | ParkRecord.com

Free clinic helps the homeless

It offered dental care, flu shots and a check-up

Pete Stoughton, right, the director of programs for the Christian Center of Park City, smiles with Nelson Perez. From El Salvador, Perez has lived in Park City for nine years, but has difficulty finding long-term housing. He was at the People’s Health Clinic on Monday for a free check-up.

Nelson Perez was the only person who showed up at the People's Health Clinic on Monday to get a free check-up.

Although Pete Stoughton was letdown by the turnout, since he was expecting at least six people to take advantage of the service, he didn't let the disappointment stop him.

Managing to stay positive, Stoughton got in his car to go find the five other homeless people who indicated they were in need of health care and willing to come to a clinic organized just for them.

Before he left he explained how important it was that even one person was there to get a flu shot and physical exam.

"If it's just one person, it's still making a difference to that person's life," said Stoughton, the director of programs for the Christian Center of Park City.

While Stoughton and a volunteer went to search for those who turn to the Christian Center for help, Perez filled out forms and anxiously waited to get his teeth cleaned, and his vitals and vision checked.

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Maximo Ventura, who was at the clinic to translate for Perez, told The Park Record why Perez, who moved to Park City from El Salvador, decided it was important to seek help through the Christian Center and its partnership with the People's Health Clinic.

"He wanted to do something that is meaningful," Ventura said. "He was also hoping to meet some other folks in town that might be in the same situation he is in."

Rachel Barnett, the People's Health Clinic's community outreach coordinator and referral specialist, said Perez's motivation to do something meaningful is part of why she wanted to work with the Christian Center to plan the Monday clinic.

Barnett said she heard from Stoughton that the Christian Center has offered resources to about 20 homeless people this year.

She was shocked by the number and started brainstorming how the People's Health Clinic could help.

"I was thinking about it all night and then I sent him an email the next day that said, 'I'm assuming these individuals probably need some medical care,'" Barnett said.

Barnett collaborated with the Christian Center and enrolled the help of a retired dentist and a counselor from Jewish Family Services to plan a day when they could offer health services to Park City's homeless population.

The clinic had a dentist's chair set up on Monday, and Marielle Parisean volunteered to clean teeth.

Retired orthopedic surgeon Dr. J. Hamilton Easter also volunteered his time on Monday, although the patient he hoped to see did not show up.

"We were told that there was an individual with a constant limp who thought he might have gangrene," Barnett said.

One of the goals of the free clinic was to help rehabilitate those who struggle to find permanent housing in Park City without putting labels on them.

Rather than including mental health care in the package, the clinic had it as an option.

"It's often mentioned that homeless people have mental health problems, but we don't want to stigmatize anyone," Barnett said.

Barnett's reasoning is why Jania Sommers, a counselor at Jewish Family Services, sat in the clinic's waiting room.

Barnett said Sommers was there to help people fill out forms and explain to them she was there to offer counseling if they wanted it.

Monday's clinic also took the same approach with Nandy Jones, the human resources director for JWW Excavating.

"She is here to take vitals and chat with people," Barnett said. "If someone doesn't have a job, she has jobs she can offer these folks if they want."

Perez said he's in a better place since he started going to the Christian Center, which has a food bank and offers emergency help to those with financial or housing struggles.

While the clinic didn't have the turnout Barnett and Stoughton hoped for (Stoughton was unable to locate the five others who had appointments), they are glad Perez took advantage of the free health care.

They said Monday was a good learning experience, and they are willing to do it again, although they agreed they might make a few changes.

"Maybe next time we'll offer it at the Christian Center, since people might feel more comfortable there," Barnett said. "We might not be able to have teeth cleanings, but that's OK."

The People's Health Clinic is a nonprofit that offers no-cost healthcare for the uninsured residents of Summit and Wasatch counties, visit peopleshealthclinic.org for information.

The Christian Center of Park City is a community resource center that provides help to Summit County residents through its food bank and other programs. Go to ccofpc.org to read about its services.

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